This book is in some ways a commentary on -or a snapshot of- France and England as they were in 1946 when civilized life as they knew it had been destroyed and was now just reasserting itself. It is about the hauntingly beautiful and tragic ruins of ancient churches and halls bombed out round about St. Paul's. It is about the shades of grey of collaboration and right and wrong in the hatred and vengeance left by the occupation in Vichy France. Should you expect people to be rigidly good or bad? Were all the collaborators bad and the Maquis always justified in the murders they committed? Is adultery always to be condemned? What dark deeds haunt the heroine so much that she obsesses about Hell? The heroine is a damaged young girl whose mother kept her in Vichy France during the War and then sends her back to her father - a thoroughly upper class Judge in bombed out London.
It is, as other reviewers have said both tragic and comic, but mainly it is Macaulay recording a unique time and place. - It captures exactly the same time and place that Muriel Spark did in Girls of Slender Means - but Spark wrote years later with hindsight. Macaulay wrote at the time about what she saw.
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